"The ABFO has had some internal issues as far as not really policing our own," he said.
Wright and other forensic dentists have been working to develop guidelines to help avert problems of the past while retaining bite mark analysis in the courtroom.
Their efforts include a flow chart to help forensic dentists determine whether bite mark analysis is even appropriate for a given case. Wright also is working on developing a proficiency test that would be required for recertification every five years.
An internal debate over the future of the practice was laid bare at a conference in Washington in February, when scores of dentists — many specializing in bite mark analysis — attended days of lectures and panel discussions. The field's harshest critics also were there, leading to heated discussions about the method's limitations and strengths.
Dr. Gregory Golden, a forensic dentist and president of the odontology board, acknowledged that flawed testimony has led to the "ruination of several innocent people's lives" but said the field was entering a "new era" of accountability.
Souviron, who testified against Bundy in 1979 and is one of the founding fathers of bite mark analysis in the U.S., argued there's a "real need for bite marks in our criminal justice system."
In an interview with the AP, Souviron compared the testimony of well-trained bite mark analysts to medical examiners testifying about a suspected cause of death.
"If someone's got an unusual set of teeth, like the Bundy case, from the standpoint of throwing it out of court, that's ridiculous," he said. "Every science that I know of has bad individuals. Our science isn't bad. It's the individuals who are the problem."
Many forensic dentists have helped the Innocence Project win exonerations in bite mark cases gone wrong by re-examining evidence and testifying for the wrongfully convicted.
But a once-cooperative relationship has turned adversarial ever since the Innocence Project began trying to get bite mark evidence thrown entirely out of courtrooms, while at the same time using it to help win exonerations.
"They turn a blind eye to the good side of bite mark analysis," Golden told the AP.
One example is a case Wright worked on in 1998. He analyzed the bite marks of the only three people who were in an Ohio home when 17-day-old Legacy Fawcett was found dead in her crib. Of the three, two sets of teeth could not have made the bite marks, Wright testified; only the teeth of the mother's boyfriend could have. The boyfriend was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and served eight years in prison.
Without the bite mark, Wright said, the wrong person might have been convicted or the man responsible could have gone free, or both.
"Bite mark evidence can be too important not to be useful," Wright said. "You can't just throw it away."
Myers reported from Cincinnati. Associated Press News Researcher Barbara Sambriski in New York and AP writers Eric Tucker in Washington, D.C., and David B. Caruso in New York contributed to this report.
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